Another 793,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

January jobs report shows a ‘strong’ 2021: Workforce analyst

EmployBridge chief workforce analyst Joanie Courtney on the January jobs report amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week as the coronavirus pandemic continues to trigger a high number of layoffs.

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Figures released Thursday by the Labor Department show that 793,000 Americans filed first-time jobless claims in the week ended Feb. 6, higher than the 757,000 forecast by Refinitiv economists.

The number has remained stubbornly high for months, hovering around four times the pre-crisis level, although it's well below the peak of almost 7 million that was reached when stay-at-home orders were first issued in March. Almost 70 million Americans, or about 40% of the labor force, have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

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Continued claims, or the number of Americans who are consecutively receiving unemployment benefits, fell to 4.54 million, a decline of about 145,000 from the previous week. The report shows that roughly 20.4 million Americans were receiving some kind of jobless benefit through Jan. 23, an increase of about 2.5 million from the previous week.

Many more Americans are receiving jobless aid from two federal programs that Congress established with the passage of the CARES Act in March: One extends aid to self-employed individuals, gig workers and others who typically aren't eligible to receive benefits, and the other provides aid to those who have exhausted their state benefits.

The federal government renewed those programs at the end of December with the passage of a $900 billion relief package, which includes a supplemental $300-a-week jobless benefit, a one-time $600 stimulus check for most adults and new funding for a small business rescue program.

Congressional Democrats, who saw that emergency aid as just the beginning of relief efforts, are barreling forward with passing a nearly $2 trillion stimulus package without any Republican buy-ins.

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A draft proposal released by the House Ways and Means Committee this week includes extended unemployment benefits at $400 a week through August and a third stimulus check worth $1,400 for Americans earning less than $75,000 a year.

If lawmakers do not extend jobless aid, 11.4 million Americans will lose their benefits on March 14, according to a new report released Wednesday by The Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.

"The jobless benefits passed in the December stimulus package are responsible for lifting more than 7 millions Americans out of poverty in January, but Americans will need strong unemployment benefits to be in place through at least the end of September if they are to weather the storm of the pandemic," the report said.

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